Tech MSA holds event on Palestinian awareness

The MSA has held multiple events over the last few semesters as part of their “In the Shadows” lecture series. // Photo by Joey D’Adamio Student Publications

The Israel-Palestine conflict can be dated back to 1947, with the formal establishment of the State of Israel through the adoption of the Partition Plan outlined in Resolution 181 mandated by the United Nations (UN). Over the years, political and military interventions have led to growing instability within this region in the Middle East, ranging from the 1956 Suez Crisis, the series of 1993 and 1995 Oslo Accords and repeated violence against both Israeli and Palestinian civilians.

As part of their “In the Shadows” lecture series highlighting human rights violations and abuses worldwide, the Muslim Students Association (MSA) recently held an event raising awareness about the current state of Palestine. Last fall, this series focused on ongoing genocides around the world and this semester, the MSA is focusing on crimes against humanity as outlined by the UN. 

The MSA event focused on human rights violations allegedly committed by the State of Israel against Palestinian civilians, especially as Palestinian health officials have said recent violent clashes in the West Bank have resulted in Palestinian homes being raided and civilian casualties at the hands of Israeli authorities. 

MSA highlighted the UN’s fourth Geneva Convention, which enshrines protections of civilians during periods of war into international humanitarian law. The presentation also focused on Article 7 of the Rome Statute that includes murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, torture and sexual assault in its extensive list of crimes against humanity. 

According to Addameer, a Jerusalem-based human rights association, as of October 2022, 551 Palestinians were serving life sentences with six Palestinian Legislative Council members being detained in Israeli prisons. The mechanism by which Palestinian citizens are imprisoned by the Israeli military without charge or trial for an indefinite period of time is known as “administrative detention.” 

The force of administrative detention has been felt most prodigiously by journalists; between 2012 and 2021, 248 journalists have been subject to imprisonment under this caveat of international criminal law according to a report by the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA). 

The MSA organizers believe that under administrative detention, the State of Israel commits crimes against humanity through practices of food deprivation, severe beating, medical negligence and threats of sexual assault. 

Renee Alnoubani, second-year CE and the MSA’s Philanthropy and Interfaith Chair spoke to the Technique about MSA’s official pro-Palestine stance in the conflict. 

In terms of what the MSA has done in regards to raising awareness about the conflict and supporting those in need, Alnoubani said that “the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) is actually one of the biggest funds in the world for Palestine and Palestinian children. And so every year we have the PCRF run, and it’s actually a part of the public’s marathon that happens every February. So it’s actually happening in two weeks. And a bunch of MSA students like to sign up for that to run the marathon or half marathon or 5k. Last year, we raised about $13,000.” 

Alnoubani also mentioned the MSA’s plans to help raise funds for building a well in Gaza, one of the primary cities at the center of the conflict during Ramadan in April, a period of time where Muslims around the world observe a month of daily fasting and growing in their faith. 

When asked whether the MSA engages in interfaith dialogue with other religious student organizations on campus regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict, Alnoubani said, “No, not interfaith dialogue. It’s never a religious discussion when it comes to this, at least from the Israeli side. I don’t want to say that from the Jewish side, because there are several Jewish supporters who don’t believe in Zionism.” 

She went on to say that the MSA is open to having discussions with other organizations on campus who may have differing views, but “due to some past instances, MSA doesn’t actively go to other religious organizations for dialogue because of that fear and anticipation of hostility.” 

Alnoubani mentioned her plans of establishing a student-led coalition consisting of several different student organizations to voice their support for overturning the working definition of antisemitism established by International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). 

The working definition of antisemitism as sanctioned by the IHRA is a non-legally binding framework that outlines various manifestations of antisemitism in daily public life. MSA’s primary concern with the definition is the seventh point that equates antisemitism with “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor,” according to the IHRA’s website. 

Tech adopted the IHRA definition following an occurrence in 2019 where the Institute’s Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) chapter did not allow Lauren Blazofsky, who was the director of Hillel at Tech at the time, to enter their “Teach-In: Palestine 101” event organized as a section of YDSA’s Israel Apartheid Week programming.

In a statement released Jan. 18, 2021 on, Tech said that it “recognizes that per the Executive Order on Combatting Anti-Semitism dated December 11, 2019, the U.S. Department of Education considers the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of Anti-Semitism and contemporary examples when evaluating the intent in cases of discriminatory harassment.  Georgia Tech encourages members of our community to learn about the IHRA working definition and contemporary examples.”

Regarding the MSA’s expectations of the Institute in supporting students directly affected by the conflict, Alnoubani said that an action item she would like to see from the Tech administration would be “overturning the IHRA definition because it’s unbelievable and unacceptable for Georgia Tech to have adopted that.”

Students in MSA believe the definition is a “Silencing Campaign” by the IHRA because they find that it distorts and conflates advocacy for Palestinian rights with antisemitism. 

According to a 2021 press release by the Atlanta Jewish Times, the Institute said “Anti-Semitism and any other forms of discrimination are not acceptable. … It is incumbent upon all of us to work together to ensure that unlawful discrimination and harassment are not welcome at Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech is committed to working collaboratively with Hillel and others to provide a campus community that is free from unlawful discrimination.”

The MSA’s event in early February 2023 featured Ilise Cohen, an anthropologist and activist whose academic and advocacy interests tie into repudiating the IHRA’s working definition of antisemitism. 

Cohen is the co-founder and co-leader of the Atlanta chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, a primary anti-Zionist organization committed to steering U.S. foreign policy in relation to the Israel-Palestine conflict. 

The Technique reached out to Hillel at Tech, but did not receive comments back prior to the time of publication.